CES takeouts for the sports business in 2019 (and beyond)
— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) January 9, 2019
The annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is famous for forecasting the year to come in technology, and in 2019 featured appearances from two sports business big-hitters in NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Turner President David Levy. The Two Circles team picked out its top takeouts from this year’s event.
Don’t believe what you read: sports broadcasting is thriving – not dying
Sam Yardley: How and on which platforms fans watch live sport has changed significantly over the last five years, testing all established media models. But Levy was bullish that the sports broadcast industry is “strong…and getting stronger” – and particularly given sports is the last genre of appointment TV.
What’s changed, however, is that TV means more than the screen that sits on your living-room wall: “it’s all content on all platforms”. The death of NFL ratings was “greatly exaggerated”, he added, saying the focus should’ve been outdated measurements rather than the health of the broadcasters or content.
The age of social broadcasting is close
Doug Bell:‘Social’ sports broadcasting and the integration of real-time statistics around an athlete’s performance were two avenues identified as key opportunities for sports broadcasters in 2019.
On the former, technology like Oculus Venues was called out as a good example of how live sports at home can be made more appealing to fans by adding in an extra area of social interactivity, in this case through virtual reality. Spartan Race CMO Carola Jain also spoke about how technology has already enabled its fans to literally run next to racers on its live streams – bringing a new level of engagement for Spartan fans.
On the latter, meanwhile, with fantasy a key piece of an American sports fan’s experience – and with betting becoming more integrated into American culture – broadcasters will be pushing for more real-time data that they can run within their broadcasts to drive the length of time viewers spend engaging with coverage.
The NBA may have already won the 2019 award for innovation…
Jarrod Basger: The NBA (National Basketball Association) and Turner used CES to announce a new way of watching live sports. From next month, fans can get second-half action of TNT’s spotlight games on Twitter – from the perspective of a player voted for, via Twitter, in the first half. For free.
The NBA’s arguably been the major league most open to embracing new ways of presenting and packaging its product. This partnership will not only be marrying live sports and social media in a way that hasn’t been done before, but gives the NBA another vehicle through which it can capture the attention of fans who might not otherwise be engaging with its product.
— NBA (@NBA) January 9, 2019
…and is demonstrating Twitter’s role as a marketing tool for subscription content
Doug Bell: When social media first hit the digital scene, many leagues were hesitant to give content away for free through them. Many, in fact, still have that hesitancy. However, the NBA/Turner/Twitter partnership is a great example of the NBA being innovative while still being protective of live rights – and Turner acting as a broadcast partner that is willing to support in experimentation, viewing Twitter as complementary rather than competitive.
The NBA considers Twitter a marketing platform, through which it can increase conversation about the league and drive interest to live games on its media partners’ platforms. Commissioner Silver’s analogy was that the league shares “snackable” content to as many people as it can, while protecting the “meals” (live games) for its broadcast partners. Expect other major leagues to be following the experiment closely.
Gambling is going to hugely impact all industry players
Sam Yardley: State-by-state legalization of gambling is going to initiate another growth spurt in the value of sports rights. Betting rights, said Levy, will become a new and valuable part of a rights-holder portfolio, and he pointed towards broadcasters being able to create new feeds/channels solely for the betting audience; media operators having the opportunity to become sportsbooks; and betting helping to attract new audiences and get fans watching for longer.
Levy: “If you bet on a sports game you’re 80-90% more likely to watch…[betting] enhances the value proposition for entertainment and sports rights.”
Data indicates more “consistent” engagement in e-sports fans
Harrison Sekhon: E-sports were born in the digital age, and therefore rights-holders in the space have a deep, data-driven insight into the demographics and behaviors of their fanbase.
One killer insight revealed on a panel of e-sports media experts was that the average e-sports fan shows higher, and more consistent, engagement than the average ‘traditional’ sports fan.
If a major league sports team is having a poor season, it will almost always suffer a decline in attendance and viewership as a result, as fans disengage with a poor on-the-pitch product. However, this doesn’t happen in e-sports; fans’ overall loyalty to a team or player is wired in a different way, removing an important unknown for investing brands and broadcasters.
Brands are focusing on sponsorships that allow them to enhance the fan experience
Nate Walsh: Sports rights-holders are unique in their position as the gateway between brands and highly-engaged audiences, however brands are demanding more impactful and measurable opportunities – and increasingly opportunities to enhance the fan experience.
Spartan Race’s Jain explained how in 2019 sponsors are looking for a marketing pitch from a potential partner: they want to see rights-holders that produce a lot of digital content, have a highly-engaged digital audience, and be shown clearly “how they fit into that”.
From the brand perspective, IBM’s Elizabeth O’Brien highlighted her organization’s focus on identifying opportunities where its technology can be deployed. While a brand fit is still a must have, the ability to solve a relevant business need is critical. And within sports, enhancing the fan experience gives brands a relevant and authentic platform to engage an audience, putting them in the perfect position to achieve their objectives.